New Delhi: Former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda, ex-Coal Secretary H C Gupta and seven others were today ordered to be put on trial by a special court, which observed that they had allegedly conspired and acted in a “blatant and brazen manner” in allocation of a coal block.
Others against whom charges were ordered to be framed were former Jharkhand Chief Secretary Ashok Kumar Basu, two public servants – Basant Kumar Bhattacharya and Bipin Bihari Singh – Vini Iron and Steel Udyog Ltd (VISUL), its director Vaibhav Tulsyan, Koda’s alleged close aide Vijay Joshi and chartered accountant Navin Kumar Tulsyan.
The court noted in its 84-page order that various acts of omission and commission committed by the accused prima facie made it clear that they had conspired with a “sole objective” to accomodate VISUL in Rajhara North (Central and Eastern) coal block in Jharkhand.
“However, the blatant and brazen manner in which various public servants acted in conspiracy with the private parties involved so as to procure not only allotment of a coal block but also excess coal is prima facie writ large on the face of the record. The overall facts and circumstances of the case thus give rise to grave suspicion against all the accused persons warranting framing of charge for various offences…,” Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar said.
The court held that offence of Section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC was prima facie made out against all nine accused, while charge under relevant penal provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act was made out against five public servants — Koda, Gupta, Basu, Singh and Bhattacharya.
The court said Gupta also prima facie committed offence under section 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant) of the IPC while Vaibhav Tulsyan, Joshi and VISUL prima facie committed offence of cheating under section 420 of the IPC. “Thus, even if various acts of omission and commission as committed by the accused persons are considered comprehensively then also it is prima facie clear that they all were acting in pursuance to a criminal conspiracy whose sole objective was to accommodate M/s VISUL in Rajhara North (Central and Eastern) coal block,” the judge said.
The case pertains to alleged irregularities in allocation of Rajhara North (Central and Eastern) coal block to Kolkata- based firm VISUL.
Detailing Koda’s role, the court said though he had sought to distance himself from the acts of other officers by stating that he merely endorsed various notings made by them, “but the overall facts and circumstances of the case clearly suggests to the contrary.”
“A grave suspicion thus arises qua the role of accused Madhu Koda also in the impugned criminal conspiracy. I may further mention that at this stage I am not entering into the allegations of the prosecution that accused Vijay Joshi was a close aid of Madhu Koda or that accused Madhu Koda acquired interest in VISUL through his close aid Vijay Joshi or that it was for this reason that the fortune of the company suddenly turned around and it was even recommended for sole allocation of Rajhara North (Central and Eastern) coal block,” it said.
“Thus, he cannot claim now that initial recommendation was made by him without any application of mind,” it said. The court said that Gupta, being the Coal Secretary and Chairman of the screening committee, had dominion over the nationalised natural resources of the country but he prima facie “acted in violation of the trust imposed in him by law and facilitated allocation of impugned coal block in favour of M/s VISUL.”
Regarding VISUL, Vaibhav Tulsyan and Vijay Joshi, who was Managing Director of VISUL, the court said they prima facie cheated the Ministry of Coal (MoC) by “securing allotment of impugned coal block on the basis of false information about group turnover/group profit and net-worth and thereby inducing it to part with impugned coal block in favour of M/s VISUL.”
It said that acts of the Jharkhand-based accused public servants – Koda, Basu, Singh and Bhattacharya – clearly fell within the four corners of the offence of criminal misconduct as defined under section 13(1)(d) of the anti-graft law.
“From the aforesaid discussion, it is thus clear that the present case involves a number of triable issues which raises grave suspicion about the role played by various accused persons and the said issues cannot be adjudicated upon at the stage of charge itself while denying the prosecution a right to prove its case,” the court said.